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Otago tops educational performance measures

The University of Otago has topped every one of the latest key government indicators measuring the educational performance of students at New Zealand’s universities.

Released late last year by the Tertiary Education Commission, the annual Educational Performance Indicators examine course and qualification completions, overall and first-year retention rates and progression to higher levels of study. Having been top in all but one of the indicators in 2016, Otago has now completed a clean sweep by ranking first across all of the key measures.

Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says the University’s unprecedented success “highlights not only the excellence of our academic staff and teaching and learning environment that the University offers students, but also the commitment Otago students put into achieving to their full potential”.

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New Chancellor announced

Roy SomervilleThe University’s new Chancellor is Dunedin-based Dr Royden Somerville QC (right). He succeeded long-serving Chancellor John Ward in January.

Dr Somerville was previously the Pro-Chancellor of the University. He joined the University Council in 2010 and became a ministerial appointee in 2012.

His association with the University began as a law student and later he became a lecturer in environmental law. His wife and children all attended the University of Otago. Dr Somerville also served for a number of years on the Council of Knox College and Salmond College and is a Fellow of Knox College.

“I consider it a great privilege to serve as the University’s 19th Chancellor. I am looking forward to working with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne, the newly elected Pro-Chancellor for 2018, Mr Stephen Higgs, and the members of the Council,” he says.

The University wishes to thank Mr Ward for his 15 years of distinguished service to the University Council. While he stepped down as Chancellor on 31 December 2017, Mr Ward’s association with the University of Otago will continue, as he remains Chair of Otago Innovation Ltd and the University of Otago Foundation Trust.

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Unprecedented Marsden success

University of Otago researchers have gained around $24 million for 33 world-class research projects in the latest Marsden Fund annual round – the University’s most successful round ever.

The results of this highly competitive and prestigious funding round were announced in November, with researchers from across the University’s Divisions of Commerce, Health Sciences, Humanities and Sciences securing funding.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie welcomed the outstanding success of so many Otago applicants.

“We are delighted that the exceptionally high quality of Otago research ideas has been rewarded with our largest success ever, both in terms of the number of researchers supported and the total amount of funding,” he says.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi administers the Marsden Fund on behalf of the government. It is regarded as a hallmark of excellence that allows the country’s best researchers to explore their ideas.

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World Leisure recognition

The University of Otago has been recognised as a new World Leisure Centre of Excellence (WLCE) by the World Leisure Organization (WLO), a worldwide, non-governmental association dedicated to discovering and fostering the leisure experience as a force for human development and well-being.

This acknowledges the University of Otago as having highly qualified international research and teaching staff, including top class facilities. The research specialisation of the Department of Tourism on well-being, growing personal and ecological well-being through tourism and leisure were some of the strong points highlighted by the evaluators.

The centre will be known as the WLCE University of Otago, and will be situated within the Department of Tourism.

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UNESCO honour

A University of Otago architectural collection spanning 150 years has been recognised for its significance to New Zealand history.

The Salmond Anderson Architecture records held at the Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, were listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand documentary heritage register.

Hocken Head Curator, Archives, Anna Blackman says the Salmond Anderson Architecture records document architectural development in southern New Zealand from 1862 to 2008.

"The extensive collection charts the broad development of architectural style and the technology of design and draughting representative of architectural history in New Zealand.

"For the Hocken, Memory of the World registration is a wonderful and lasting way we can recognise the significance of these records to the history of architecture and the built environment in New Zealand,’’ she says.

This latest inscription brings the Hocken’s total on the register to five. Other collections inscribed are: Charles Brasch Personal Papers (2011); Hocken Church Missionary Society Collection (2013); Pickerill Papers on Plastic Surgery (2015); and Lance Richdale Papers on ornithology (2016).

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Business School redevelopment opens

School of Business

The newly redeveloped University of Otago Business School’s common space opened in early December.

The building was redeveloped over two floors, in a major project which began in October 2016. This brings it into line with a more modern learning environment, and replaces the wet and cold atrium which was worsened by leaks and the lack of a wind-proof door.

The newly-developed ground level incorporates teaching, study and social spaces, an information sharing area, as well as a café and the Dean’s Office. This new common area will be known as Te Wao Nui.

Otago Business School Dean Professor Robin Gauld says it will provide an engaging central common space for collaborative, formal and informal learning and social interactions for students and Business School staff, as well as the wider business community.

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City College re-named

The University of Otago has renamed City College the Caroline Freeman College after the University’s first female graduate (see banner above).

“The University of Otago was the first university in this part of the world where women could study. This is a part of our history that brings us great pride. I am very pleased to recognise that proud history by renaming our College after our first female graduate,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne.

The name-change at the College – which originally housed students from both the University and Otago Polytechnic – took effect on 1 January 2018, when the University took full ownership of City College after buying the third owned by the Otago Polytechnic.

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Te Kāika officially opens

The University of Otago has partnered with Te Putahitanga o Te Wāipounamu (the South Island Whanau Ora commissioning agency), Ngāi Tahu, health and social service provider Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora, and the Pacific community to provide an affordable, high-quality health and social service in South Dunedin.

Te Kāika, which was formally opened at the end of February, is based at the former College Street School and offers GP and dental services, gym facilities and social service providers in the same complex.

Teaching is also an important component of Te Kāika, with the University training students from across the Health Sciences’ professional schools on site.

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QS subject rankings

In the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject, the University of Otago has five subjects in the top 50 worldwide.

They are: sports-related subjects,12th; dentistry 27th; archaeology, 28th; anatomy and physiology 29th; and development studies, 39th.

In total 15 Otago subjects were ranked in the top 100, a further seven subjects in the top 150, and six in the 151 to 200 band.

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Teaching excellence

Four staff members have been honoured in the University of Otago’s annual Teaching Excellence Awards.

They are: Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga, Centre for Pacific Health, Va’a o Tautai, Division of Health Sciences; Associate Professor Sheila Skeaff, Department of Human Nutrition; Dr Kristin Hillman, Department of Psychology; and Dr Rebecca Bird, Department of Anatomy.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Vernon Squire says Otago has a proud tradition of teaching excellence. "The four teachers who have won awards this year join a select group of our very best educators whose remarkable accomplishments in learning and teaching place them in the company of the best in the world.”

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Dr Htin Lin Aung (Microbiology and Immunology), Dr Hamish Jamieson (Medicine, Christchurch), Dr Michael Pankhurst (Anatomy) and Dr Daniel Ribeiro (Physiotherapy) have each been awarded around $500,000 from the Health Research Council (HRC) to pursue world-class projects aimed at improving New Zealander’s health and well-being and contributing to international progress in these areas. They are among a total of 17 Otago health researchers and students to receive the latest funding through the HRC career development awards for 2018.

Two University of Otago academics have received Fulbright New Zealand Scholar Awards to undertake research in the United States. Professors Neil Gemmell (Anatomy) and Tony Merriman (Biochemistry) have been awarded up to US$37,500 to support research for three to five months in the US. Gemmell will research the usefulness of new "gene drive" technologies for the control of predatory pests, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Broad Institute. Merriman will research the genetic basis of urate control and gout in African-Americans, at the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Three Otago researchers were among those presented with medals at the 2017 New Zealand Research Honours Dinner hosted by the Royal Society Te Apārangi. Associate Professor Jonathan Broadbent (Dentistry) received the Health Research Council of New Zealand’s Liley Medal, Professor Sally Brooker (Chemistry) the Society’s Hector Medal, while PhD student Mr Ryan Thomas (Physics) won the Hatherton award.

Professor Lisa Stamp (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch) has won the Medicines New Zealand’s Value of Medicines Award for research into how increasing dosages of gout medicines can dramatically improve patients’ lives.

Professor Emerita Carolyn Burns was awarded the prestigious 2017 Marsden Medal by the New Zealand Association of Scientists in November.

Many years of service to Dunedin’s French community and to French culture in the city have earned Otago’s Dr Christiane Leurquin (Languages and Cultures) the French National Order of Merit.

Five geoscientists from Otago’s Department of Geology received awards at the Geoscience Society of New Zealand Annual Conference in December. Associate Professor Daphne Lee was awarded the McKay Hammer prize for her Marsden-funded publications from 2014-2016. Emeritus Professor Alan Cooper is the Hochstetter Lecturer for 2018. Professor Dave Craw was awarded the S.H. Wilson Prize for Geochemistry. Master's student Marcus Richards won the Royal Society of New Zealand Best Student Oral Presentation Award and PhD student Ian Geary received the Harold Wellman Prize for the most significant fossil discovery made in the previous year.

An idea that could revolutionise the management of severe pain has won the University’s 2017 Translational Research Grant. Dr Ailsa McGregor (Pharmacy) will work with Associate Professor Natalie Medlicott (Pharmacy) and Professor Paul Glue (Psychological Medicine) to develop a novel medication for severe pain that will increase pain control, prevent tolerance and reduce side effects.

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Associate Professor Chris Button as the new Dean of the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science. Button, who came to Otago from Edinburgh in 2003, says his “healthy obsession” with physical activity will be a driving force in his new role. His research and teaching concerns the use and application of technology to aid skill acquisition and how its use promotes physical activity.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu as Associate Dean (Pacific) at the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW). Sika-Paotonu is the first Tongan, Pacific biomedical scientist to be appointed to this role within the Division of Health Sciences at Otago. She is based in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the UOW.

Shelagh Murray, a highly experienced facilitator of non-profit fundraising, as its next Director of Development and Alumni Relations Office. Murray took up the role in February.

Emma Neale as the new editor of Landfall, published by Otago University Press. Neale has published six novels and five poetry collections, and edited several anthologies. She is a former Robert Burns Fellow (2012) at the University of Otago and has received numerous awards and grants for her writing.

Te Poutama Māori – the University of Otago’s Māori Academic Staff Caucus – has appointed a new co-chair. Dr Diane Ruwhiu from the Otago Business School is joining co-chair Professor Jacinta Ruru (Law).

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Professorial promotions

Twenty-three University of Otago academics – across a range of research fields – were promoted to full professor, effective 1 February: Haxby Abbott (Surgical Sciences), Greg Anderson (Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Anatomy), David Bell (College of Education), Jim Cotter (Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences), Sarah Derrett (Preventive and Social Medicine), George Dias (Anatomy), Ruth Empson (Physiology), Ruth Fitzgerald (Anthropology and Archaeology), Paul Hansen (Economics), John Horwood (Psychological Medicine, Christchurch), Greg Jones (Surgical Sciences), Merata Kawharu (Te Tumu: School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies), Stephen Knowles (Economics), James Maclaurin (Philosophy), Patrick Manning (Medicine), Jessica Palmer (Law), Suetonia Palmer (Medicine, Christchurch), Inguruwatt Premachandra (Accountancy and Finance), Anthony Ritchie (Music, Theatre and Performing Arts), Louise Signal (Public Health, Wellington), Claudine Stirling (Chemistry), Michelle Thompson-Fawcett (Geography), and Sarah Young (Pathology).

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New Year Honours

Alumni and academic staff recognised in the New Year Honours include: Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM): Dr William Blair Rhodes Rolleston, for services to the farming industry.

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM): Mr Frederick John Graham, for services to Māori art; Dr Andrew Alexander Hill, for services to endoluminal vascular repair; Dr Andrew Hugh Holden, for services to endoluminal vascular repair; Dr James Malcolm Macpherson, for services to local government and the community; Ms Julia Morison, for services to visual arts; and Ms Helen Mary Pollock, for services to art.

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM): Professor Barbara Brookes, for services to historical research and women; Ms Suzanne Louise Ellison, for services to Māori, the arts and governance; Dr John Clive Guthrie, for services to education and sport; Associate Professor Michael John Hilton, for services to conservation; Ms Donna Matahaere-Atariki, for services to Māori and health; Mr Nigel Dean Skelt, for services to badminton; Dr David Collins Tipene-Leach, for services to Māori and health; and Mr Graeme Richard Wallis, for services to music.

Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO): Ms Evelyn Marion Weir, for services to seniors and the community. Queen’s Service Medal (QSM): Mr Philip John Craigie, for services to music; Mrs Kathleen Patricia Fletcher, for services to music, science education, and the community; Mrs Margaret Ann Miles, JP, for services to local government and the community; and Mrs Julie Patricia Syme, for services to the community.

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Honorary degree

Otago alumnus Graeme Hart was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Commerce by the University of Otago in December. Hart is an internationally renowned businessman and philanthropist. His current profile relates to building, owning and managing the largest business enterprise in New Zealand – Rank Group – under which sits a vast global platform.

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Emeritus Professors

The University Council has recently awarded the following academics the status of Emeritus Professor: Professor Stuart Anderson (Law), Professor Amanda Barusch (Sociology, Gender and Social Work), Professor George Benwell (Otago Business School), and Professor Douglas Booth (Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences).

For more University news: University of Otago Newsroom